The Words of the Carlson Family


Paul Carlson
November, 2002

This article begins a series on vocations; about the roles people fill in society and civilization. We’re not talking about celebrities or politicians, who seldom come up with anything really new.

Instead, we’ll focus on the people who make it all work. This month we’ll look at people share ideas.

Scientists, philosophers, teachers, artists, prophets, and many others create new ideas. Then, who shapes these ideas into recognizable form? Only a few are talented enough to do this by themselves. Who records their ideas, and disseminates it all to the world?

Throughout history, writers have filled this role. (That’s why they call it written history!) On a larger scale, books and newspapers have performed this task for centuries.

Printers have been joined by the broadcast media, and just lately by the Internet. Still, each of these operations is driven by writers.

We’re all familiar with news anchors, those familiar faces who bring us information each day, sometimes over careers that span decades. Most of you know they’re reading from a teleprompter; they hardly ever create their own scripts. Behind them is a staff of writers. (Known in that business as editors and interns.)

Many other people share ideas with the public, and enjoy the same unseen support. Entrepreneurs routinely hire ghostwriters. Preachers will outline their sermons, consulting not just the Bible, but many source texts.

Politicians almost never compose their own speeches. Sometimes their speech writers become famous in their own right. (For example, Theodore Sorenson and Peggy Noonan.) When a politician does come up with something original, it gets noticed. Think of the Gettysburg Address.

With so much influence, any error these writers commit, whether of grammar or of fact, does have consequences. Their own grudges or ideology may seep through as well. The widely replied upon, and supposedly impartial, Associated Press has been called to task over this issue.


At the dawn of civilization, people used little symbols to show ownership. Marks and seals, made from wax or clay, designated the material goods of each family or merchant.

Around 2000 BC the Sumerians invented true writing, with cuneiform marks on clay tablets. Most of those tablets are boring inventory lists, but some contain thrilling (though very weird) mythic tales.

At first, only a tiny handful of scribes were literate. But not for long: a few of those tablets contain homework assignments. (Tell your kids that Sumerian students had the very same gripes 4000 years ago!)

Those humble clay tablets, and Egypt’s papyrus scrolls, knit together the world’s first empires, and carried knowledge far and wide. Without those ancient scribes there would have been few (if any) major religions, technological advances, or large-scale societies.

Later, the Gutenberg printing press fostered increased progress, and ultimately made possible the Protestant Reformation and the Industrial Revolution.

In a world where freedom beckons, tyrants fear writers more than anything. Expressions of faith and fact that question their Official Version are suppressed at almost any cost.

In medieval times the Pope banned all sorts of texts, some really quite nasty, but also some about new scientific discoveries.

Communist countries used to register every typewriter. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was persecuted for exposing Soviet realities to the world.

Today, China, and a few other countries, are trying to erect technical ‘national firewalls’ to censor the Internet. So far, their blockade has been about as successful as their Imperial ancestors were with the Great Wall.


Writers are a fascinating bunch. Avid readers such as myself will attend readings and conferences where the fans can meet authors in person. (I also direct a small group of aspiring writers.)

The real-life person you meet is almost never the one you expected. The sheer variety of personalities and lifestyles is mind boggling. And they are usually quite happy to ‘talk shop’ with a fan!

Classic authors were often as remarkable. When Ernest Hemingway stayed at his cabin in Ketcham, Idaho, he’d put a dead fish on his porch. Its stench would remind the neighbors who was in town. Fantasy writer Fritz Leiber’s mild-looking self was mirrored in his renowned alter ego, the tall and dashing barbarian Fafhrd.

Fiction writers don’t just transmit ideas, sometimes they create them. A huge portion of the English language can be attributed to Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the King James Bible.

In the 1960s, counterculture authors inspired the styles of an entire generation. In the mainstream, technicians have spent decades making Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek gadgetry real.

Even comic strip writers can have a special influence. The late and much beloved Charles Schulz held a unique place in America’s, and indeed the world’s, heart. The main runway at his home town airport, in Santa Rosa, is known to pilots as Snoopy One.


Writing is seldom easy.

It’s harder to do it right most people think. To my dismay, I have found that many (otherwise successful) college graduates lack even basic writing skills, such as grammar and punctuation. These can be learned, but that’s only the first hurdle.

In the busy and complex writing business, it helps to have an agent. These are hard to come by, as the good ones are usually booked solid.

Authors have always been competitive, but there are only so many publishing companies, and limited space on those bookstore shelves. Worse yet, publishing has become commercialized, with huge corporations dominating the business at every level. They care only about the bottom line.

In the field, the (few remaining) wholesale book distributors are hiring sales reps with no literary background whatsoever. An entire cadre of experienced business people has been lost.

The variety of retail-type ‘sales points’ for paperback books has shrunk from hundreds to a mere handful. I hate to say it, but grocery store chains care little about some writer’s budding career.

There are several ways around this logjam. Writers with money can ‘self publish.’ Many companies, if paid enough, will print up anything you want. Some will help with the editing, cover art, and other important points.

Recently these traditional outlets have been joined by online distributors, and one-book-at-a-time ‘on demand’ publishers. There are also electronic format ‘ebook’ publishers. Which, we are assured, will one day soon catch on.

An aspiring writer must be very careful! The publishing business is fraught with plagiarism, and its modern variant ‘script mining.’ Crooked agents and ‘book doctors’ are lined up to relieve you of your money. Dubious new publishing formats can sink your novel into instant obscurity.

Fortunately, there is help. Publications like The Writer, and many web sites, are filled with good advice. Various local and national writer’s groups welcome new members. Annual conferences such as MauiCon bring together hundreds of reputable people.


I’ve noticed something about writers that has gotten me into some rather vigorous debates. I hold that it’s inevitable for a writer’s beliefs; their knowledge, faith, and worldview, to show through in their work. Even if they aren’t trying, and would actively deny it, the evidence is always there.

Many popular writers are leftists, agnostics, and/or libertines.

If a person happens to be a talented actor, a debate team captain, or an experienced lawyer, they might convincingly argue for a belief they themselves do not hold. But only right then, within a specific written work, or during an actual presentation.

Religion has a big role in the world. But in fiction, one is lucky to find a Protestant minister, or a serious believer, portrayed as anything but a hypocrite, if not a villain. Any positively depicted characters are usually in the background.

This is even more the case on TV and in the movies. One recent study found that, out of about seventy TV fathers, only two were shown as married, positive role models.

Relatively few fiction writers share a belief in God with a wide audience. This varies somewhat with the genre. The number of Fantasy and Science Fiction authors who are (what I call) proud monotheists can be counted on two hands.

There are Christian (and other religious) book publishers, but most of their authors are stuck in a niche. The big standouts, like Timothy LaHaye and his "Left Behind" series, are not doing God many favors. That one is based upon a narrow and wildly improbable interpretation of the Bible.

Meanwhile, to my knowledge, the percentage of Divine Principle-based fiction on the market is very close to zero. I have a query. How many Unificationist fiction writers are out there; commercially published, self-published, or wanting to be published? Contact me at,

It seems to me that the most compelling stories are that way because they’re rooted in our authentic human nature. The greatest fiction arises not from slick literary formulas; rather, it evokes the deepest human archetypes.

And what does the Principle contain? Heavenly writers are needed!

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